It was a bad weekend for you if you were a highly touted Caucasian fighter fighting in a big TV bout.
Michael Katsidis ran into a motivated professor of pugilism on Saturday night, and the Cuban vet Joel Casamayor showed him that man cannot rely on brawn alone when faced with a masterfully schooled and skilled foe. The night before, Andy Lee, perhaps having listened a bit too intently to trainer/manager Emanuel Steward’s laudatory assessments, entered a ring in Connecticut with a cocky grin, and left with a busted up face and a newly bestowed loss upon his record.
TSS checked in with another professor of pugilism, HBO’s Larry Merchant, to get his take on the entertaining ring action.
First, the 36-year-old WBO 135-pound champ, Casamayor.
“He made a decision not to stay in the grave,” Merchant said. “He had a fighter who came hard at him, and he did a helluva good job. A Katsidis type fighter will always run into guys who set traps for you, and hit you on the way in. That’s why there are so few guys of his type that become champions. That doesn’t mean it’s over for Katsidis. You have to be a really big puncher to be successful in that style. To be a Frazier, Marciano, Tyson, you have to be able to hurt a guy (more than Katsidis is able to.)
“I don’t know if it was a last hurrah for Casamayor. The old timers today, 35 is the new 30, and 40 is the new 35, because they fight less frequently and there is a tremendous incentive to keep going because of the big money. Also, the modern conditioning methods help. I always say, the first thing that goes is not the legs or the punch, but the zeal to train. But the incentive is there to train these days because of the money.”
And what about the highly touted Irishman, the 23-year-old middleweight Lee?
“I think there was a sense of over expectations, from others and himself,” Merchant said. “He found out no matter how hard you hit some guys they will keep coming. It worked in the second round and maybe he thought he’d walk right trough Vera. Vera can take a shot, and that’s part of the equation at this level. He showed a little craft, and patience. I think Lee became overaggressive and hit a wall. I don’t think it’ll be fatal. It may be a loss that turns out to be a win for him. Don’t dismiss him. People were expecting Superman, including him. He showed toughness, and took hard shots, and was punching back when it was stopped. I won’t dismiss someone of that character. Is he cocky? Maybe. It reflects the easy path that has been given to him. Emanuel was talking him up as a future champ, and it is part of his personality.”
Merchant talks about the confidence; I noted that before the bout started Lee was in the ring, without a game face on. He looked like he was out with his mates for a coupla brews, grinning like he had the pick of the chicks in the tavern. If he had won, that evaluation would be dismissed. But with the loss, that relaxed state means something.
“But I don’t think he can’t be elite,” Merchant said.
Looking ahead, Merchant said a Katsidis/Juan Diaz loser’s bracket fight would be a smart match.
Merchant will be working the April 12 Atlantic City card, featuring Miguel Cotto/Alfonso Gomez and the Kermit Cintron/Antonio Margarito rematch.
“I’m not as certain as others that Gomez is a pushover,” he said. “You don’t have to be bad to lose to Cotto, look at Quintana. Gomez is fighting at a good weight for him, I’m curious to see what he brings. I don’t know if he’ll have the strength. There might be a few interesting rounds.”
My take is along the same lines; I believe Gomez is a man of destiny. He will not allow himself to be kayoed, and so many people have such low expectations of this Contender alum, a la Vera, that I predict he will make it a surprisingly difficult fight for Cotto. Urkal hung around for a long time, and Mosley was right there with Cotto, too, don’t forget. Do you all think Gomez is that much weaker than Urkal? I don’t.
Merchant will also work the May 3 Oscar De La Hoya/Steve Forbes card. He thinks that Oscar is in a bit of a lose-lose situation with Forbes, because he is expected to handle the smaller man easily, so if he rubs him out, it’s an ‘I told you so,’ and if he struggles at all, he’s struggled against a smaller guy. But, Merchant said, it is a good idea for Oscar to spar someone who’s gone hundreds of rounds with Floyd Mayweather.
“Forbes has never been knocked down, and I don’t know if he’ll play run and hit, but at its worst it will be an interesting sparring session,” the analyst said. “Forbes probably feels he can surprise people. It’s possible from a build up perspective to Oscar/Floyd II it could have an opposite effect if it’s not a clear victory. I think Oscar is serious that he thinks he could have beaten Floyd, and this fight means he will be in shape, and not fight once a year. Oscar couldn’t ask for a better guy to sharpen himself up than Forbes, if that’s his intention.”
“The burden of proof will be on Cintron, we’ll see if he is better than he was the first time they fought.”
End of the day, there is no theme that applies to this weekend’s surprising results. Cockiness may have been the single most overwhelming reason why one man tasted his first pro ‘L’, while a clear deficiency in technique kicked another man off the list of unbeatens, and back to the gym, and back to the drawing board.